Elgin library plans to tighten budget to increase salaries
The Gail Borden Public Library District's proposed new budget includes a general tightening of expenses across the board so salaries can be raised gradually by the time the state's minimum wage reaches $15 in 2025.
About 34% of the library's workforce makes less than $15 per hour, Carole Medal, the library's executive director, said at a board meeting Tuesday. The minimum wage now is $8.25 per hour in Illinois.
"We want to avoid salary spikes in the next few years," she said, adding that "the rest of the budget we really streamlined as much as possible."
The nearly $13.9 million tentative operating budget for the fiscal year that started July 1 -- the board will retroactively approve the final budget in September -- is a 2% increase from the 2018-19 budget. The largest increase, or about $435,000 equating to 6.1%, is for salaries. There will be base salary increases across the board, plus merit-based raises of 2%, library spokeswoman Denise Raleigh said.
"Every department did a great job of taking things out (of the budget)," board President Jean Bednar said.
Board member Amanda Garcia agreed, saying, "Well done, everyone."
The previous library budget increased by 4% from the year before. By comparison, the national Consumer Price Index rose by 1.8% in one year through May, data shows.
The good news is that circulation increased by 3.1% after seven years of decline, Medal said.
The library wants to increase spending for e-books and streaming, mostly audiobooks.
Cuts will include laptop dispensing machines, the replacement of security gates, seal-coating of parking lots, marketing items like mugs and water bottles, and conferences and continuing education for staff members. The newsletter will go from 12 to eight pages, and a "staff day" will be a half-day with no lunch, Medal said.
The library fronted unexpected expenses this past year to fix burst pipes during January's extreme cold and to clean nontoxic mold in an archive/storage room that holds local history and special interest magazines, Raleigh said.
The board also gave the OK on Tuesday to start the work to put a question on the March ballot that will ask voters to keep their library taxes at the same amount after the library finishes paying off its bonds Dec. 15, 2021. The proposed budget includes $2.5 million for bond principal and interest payments.
"The number one reason that this is really critical for the future of the library district is the maintaining of the buildings," such as roofs, boilers, parking lots and more. There is also need to expand the South Elgin branch and possibly expand hours of operation, Medal said.
If voters say "no," the owner of a house with a cash value of about $152,500 would save an estimated $48 per year, Raleigh said.
In that case, the library would have to look at cutting hours, staff and materials, Medal said. "We would be working with less, and this budget is already pretty tight," she said.
The next step will be to establish an advocacy committee, because the library cannot advocate for a specific vote, only inform voters, Medal said. A pro bono consultant who specializes in helping libraries will assist, she said.